Bull Allen finds life after rugby highly fulfilling

AFTER RUGBY: Mark Bull Allen is enjoying life in Tauranga.
AFTER RUGBY: Mark Bull Allen is enjoying life in Tauranga.

Bull Allen is halfway between Tauranga and Mt Maunganui, on his way to a public speaking engagement, but is happy to talk on the fly and be photographed later in the day.

He has a booming voice and a quick, reasoned response to everything thrown at him.

He's 46, the father of five children and not far off becoming a grandfather for the second time.

He likes to laugh, and play tennis. It is family first, job second and rugby third these days.

Church is very important to him too but not a subject he wants to push because he knows there is nothing worse than someone jamming religion down your throat.

A lot has happened since Bull captained the Hurricanes in their first season, 1996.

He did rugby commentary then realised he never got to watch his sons play. He's promoted this and that and is a celebrity guest speaker but two years ago he found a real job and now manages a dozen staff in a pest management business in Tauranga.

''It took a little while for me to find what I wanted to get into after rugby finished,'' he confesses.

''It hasn't got the physical challenges like a game of rugby but I'm dealing with people all the time and I'm very fortunate rugby has taught me good skills, like how to build a good team and how to treat people to get the best out of them.''

Bull's life changed 10 years ago when he stopped drinking.

He put down the bottle and picked up the Bible and set about being a better person.

He is a member of the Destiny Church in Tauranga but is happy to talk about things others than religion.

''I'm still the fun Bull Allen but I've cut a few rough edges off.

''When I played rugby I was looking for the perfect game of rugby, now as a husband I look for that perfect day when I can be the best husband and father I can be. God has helped me with that.

''It has helped me a lot, in terms of growing up.

''It's not easy to be a pro rugby player one day and out on the street the next so it has helped with that.''

We move on. There are some young Bulls running around the rugby fields, not mobile props though.

His oldest sons Luke, 19, and Thomas, 17, were team-mates in the Bethlehem College 1st XV last year and are members of the Bay of Plenty under-18 reps. Luke as a centre and Thomas as an openside flanker.

''I enjoyed my rugby but I must say it was a real thrill to see my two boys play in a rep team together.''

His other children are Sarah, 25, Molly, 11, and James, 9. He describes wife Geralyn as ''more of an academic''.

''So she fills in a few gaps for me.''

Bull is running around at 110kg, about 5kg down on the weight he was when he played eight tests for the All Blacks and three seasons with the Hurricanes, before a prolapsed disc brought on retirement aged 30.

He has controlled the injury with a rigid fitness programme.

''I do a lot of kettlebells. I do hundreds of those in a session and I enjoy my tennis.

''Kettlebells are getting quite fashionable these days. They are a like a cannonball with a handle on them.

''A lot of the teams are starting to use them. I've been doing kettlebells for six-seven years. I started doing them when they were unfashionable. Being a frontrower, when it comes to fashion I'm always a couple of years out.''

He  has fond memories of his Hurricanes days. He recalls the first game of professional rugby against the Blues in Palmerston North in 1996, but says that experience might even bow to the packed round-robin game against the Brumbies at Athletic Park in May 1997.

''They were magic times and I feel grateful to have been part of it.''

He rarely sees his former Hurricanes team-mates.

''The wonderful thing about rugby and blokes is that you don't need to see each other every day to be good friends.''

Players generally have regrets and ''what if'' moments in their career and Bull is no different but he has worked through those and come out the other side.

''Rugby afforded me a lot of opportunities when I played and rugby still affords me a lot of opportunities today.

''I'm speaking at a function today. I'm nearly 47 years old. I wouldn't be speaking today if it wasn't for rugby.

''I still get work because of rugby and rugby has set me up well for life.''

So, one final question.

Is it once a Hurricane always a Hurricane for Bull?

With his former province Taranaki having jumped into bed with the Chiefs, ''I have a conundrum now,'' he muses.

''But I've always been a great fan of the Canes and I played for them so I'll always support them.''